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Research Tip: Go beyond “what” to “so what”

Many researchers complain that they don’t get any respect.  People say that their management doesn’t listen to them, doesn’t ask their opinion, or oversimplifies the research results.

I would suggest that much of this is the fault of the researchers themselves.  It’s not that the researchers are incompetent or that management isn’t smart enough to listen.  It’s usually a basic failure to communicate that leads to frustration on both sides and lost opportunities to leverage trends in the market.

Researchers, as a group, tend to be methodical, analytical, left-brain type people.  The marketers they work with, as a group, tend to be creative, right-brain type people.  The researchers who run into problems are those who haven’t figured out how to translate their native “research” into “marketer-ese”.

What researchers usually want to talk about is the “what”-as in what were the results of the research.  What marketers usually want to hear is the “so what” – as in what should we do based on the research.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that researchers should assume the role of telling the marketers what to do.  I’m suggesting that researchers need to go beyond dumping a big pile of data on the table and leaving it to the marketers to figure out what matters.

An example:

Reporting the “what”:

“Our research showed that 72% of women aged 25 to 44 expressed frustration with their lack of time for relaxation.  Older women were less likely to feel this way.”

Reporting the “so what”:

“Because women between 25 and 44 are most frustrated with their lack of time for relaxation (72%; significantly more than older women), we should consider positioning our self-cooking dinners as the perfect way for busy young women to free up time after work.”

By simply understanding the decisions that need to be made in the business, the researcher help the marketers interpret research findings and come to decisions about what to do.

The next time you are reporting research results, ask yourself what the fact you uncovered means for the decisions to be made.  Remember that any particular research finding doesn’t really have any value outside its contribution to the business decision.  Frame your presentation to make clear how a findings fits with other information and how it contributes to a course of action.

Now you’re speaking “marketer-ese.”

About the Author

Ed Erickson is the President of Erickson Research, a Chicago market research consulting firm. You can find Ed on LinkedIn and .

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